Leonard climbed to the top of the stairs, already out of breath. He really should've used the elevator. Five floors? Or was it six? Four? He was probably becoming delirious. He got nauseous in elevators, normally, but made a mental note that if the apartment was on this level it was probably worth it.
He looked between the two doors and back to the scrap of paper that'd been tucked in his pocket. The one closer to him was it, 4A. This'd better be the right one, his mind whined. He didn't feel like going up or down the stairs anymore than was necessary.
He was rethinking the whole thing when a tall, pale man pulled the door open in front of him.
"Dr. Hoftstader, you're seven minutes late," he commented, tersely. He seemed to make a note of it on the clipboard in front of him.
Leonard was too surprised to do anything more than gape for a moment, before following directions to move and sit on a stool in what looked to be the living room. It was a little bare; there was an end table with a simple lamp centered on top, a pair of desks off to the right, and a few stools set up facing one another leaving the shape of an isosceles triangle in the space between.
He goofily wondered if they'd been set up at this angle on purpose. He shook it off because this Sheldon Cooper may also be a physicist but that didn't mean he was guaranteed to be as quirky as himself.
He was just projecting, again. He had a problem with doing that.
But the guy waswearing a shirt with the bat signal on it, so you couldn't blame him for hoping.
As he took in the sterile living area and kitchen, he thought about how nice it'd be to live with someone who had, at least, a similar level of cleanliness and organization that he had wished of his past three roommates. Even if he was half as clean as himself, it'd be better than what he dealt with now. Constantly trying to guess which items in the refrigerator would be least detrimental to his health every time he opened its door.
More than one bout with food poisoning caused by this Russian roulette diet, kept him on his toes. It's why he never bought perishables, anymore. He missed lactose-free yogurt.
"Is it all right if I call you Leonard?" Leonard was brought out of his thoughts.
"Sure. You go by Sheldon, right?"
"Actually, for impartial interviewing purposes you can refer to me as Dr. Cooper. If things go well for you, then, yes, you may call me Sheldon." He tipped his head, politely impolite.
"Okay?" Leonard's brow creased a little.
"If you'll take this-" Dr. Cooper handed a thick packet of paper to him. "And these-" He handed over a pen, pencil, calculator and large rubber eraser. "You have about an hour, but if you need more time, we can discuss it when we reach that point."
"Wait, you're giving me a test? Is this, like, a rental requirement? Or do you just like tests?" Leonard asked, as he flipped disbelievingly through the pages. There looked to be upwards of twenty.
"I do have a measurable amount of affection towards standardized testing, but then again who doesn't? This, however, is the best way to decide if you meet the requirements of being a good roommate."
Dr. Cooper stood abruptly and was about to dismiss himself to what Leonard assumed was his bedroom, before he interrupted his exit with another question.
"Do you want to try just asking these questions? Having a conversation? I can probably get my points across just as well off of paper," he suggested, softly. He smiled and hoped he was coming off as courteous.
As bizarre as the situation had become, there was something oddly endearing about how hard the guy was working at what would only take a ten minute conversation's worth of discussion.
It pained the fellow scientist in Leonard, too, that he probably could get more conclusive results if he only realized the simple error of his ways.
"That's a very interesting concept. May I suggest you consider it for the topic of your essay?" He stepped back towards where Leonard was still seated and swiftly pulled back a chunk of pages in the packet, revealing the aforementioned essay question.
What? An essay? Before he could say anything more, Dr. Cooper disappeared into the hallway - to give him privacy to think.
After twenty three minutes, Leonard had finished his packet. At first he tried to answer the questions seriously, but by the middle he was mostly filling in random bubbles. There were over two-hundred questions, so he mentally wagered that it might not even be noticed.
He walked down the hallway and knocked on the door. Dr. Cooper opened it and gave a surprised look, accepting the stapled pile of papers.
"Oh. You're still here," he noted, absently. "And it only took you-" he glanced at the wristwatch on his right hand, "-twenty three and a half minutes. Impressive."
"Do you want me to do anything else? Produce a urine sample, perhaps?" Leonard grinned along with his joke.
"No, we'll leave that for another time," Dr. Cooper replied, seriously.
Leonard let out a guffaw, musing that maybe he was wrong. This guy did seem to have a sense of humor. It was painfully dry and his face gave no indicators, not the whimsicalness he'd suspected from the flyer, but it was something.
"Well, thank you for your application. It was a pleasure meeting with you, I will contact you with your results and my decision." Dr. Cooper led him to the door.
"Thanks, nice meeting you, too," he answered, just before the door closed in his face.
When Leonard got home there was a message on his machine telling him he'd been selected for a follow-up interview.
They were to meet at a Chinese restaurant, where Dr. Cooper ate every Friday at six fifteen in the evening. There, they would discuss things further. He finished the message telling him that he may now refer to him as "Sheldon," if he so chose.
Leonard couldn't help but smile and feel a little affected by the strange man's quirks. Even if he'd been pretty serious about the whistling.
Some years later, Leonard asked Sheldon how he'd forgiven his fake bubble-filling tactics the first time around and been chosen for a follow-up interview. They were eating dinner and had been talking about how they'd met. Sheldon gave a sidelong glance at the shorter man, taking a gulp of water before replying.
"Actually you were the first person who didn't leave when I excused myself to my bedroom," Sheldon said in a softer tone of voice than he usually used.
It made Leonard sure that he didn't mean it even close to the way it may have otherwise sounded.
He cleared his throat, adding, "Plus, you'd written your essay on the Joker. It was only right."
At that, Leonard wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry.